Itchy-O welcomed home for a hardly describable performance

The avante-garde band, itchy-O marched their electrifying music, smoke and spectacles back to Denver on Aug. 26 for the release of their latest record, “From the Overflowing.”

With an upcoming tour and first music video, Gallow’s Disco, released in July, 2017 could be one of the most successful years for the group.

The Denver-based group got its start in 2009 and has grown to over 32 members. Artists range from drummers and vocalists to Chinese dragon dancers and special effects. Since their start they’ve gained a cult following among Denver concertgoers.

Dan Gutierrez has seen at least five shows since the group surprised people near the Contemporary Art Museum in a guerrilla performance several years ago. Gutierrez said he was walking downtown when an all-black attired ensemble appeared out of nowhere.

“That’s what drew me in,” Gutierrez explained. “It was life changing.”

The masked figures value their anonymity. For itchy-O, performance and theatrics are valued as much as music. Gutierrez was oblivious to the fact that one of his friends was a drummer in the unannounced concert.

Concert-veteran Lauren Sloan brought along her friend, Joey Diamante, for his first itchy-O experience.

“The interaction was cool, especially when they brought out the dragon,” Diamante said.

Sloan described the music as “a whole different genre.”

A new and unique genre is the best way to explain the strange, music ensemble.

The full name is the itchy-O Marching Band but their ground-shaking percussion and black clothes fit better in a rock concert than a high school field.

They trade high-knee marches for headbangs. Shakos replace typical marching band hats. The appropriation of visuals and musical devices are varied. Psychedelic and metal instrumentals laid a foundation for the strange sound sampling and Gollum-like vocals.

Itchy-O danced with the crowd at the release party of From the Overflowing. Photo by Ali Watkins | awatkin9@msudenver.edu

The East Asian influences are apparent in the use of Japanese Taiko drums and their dancers. This is mixed with recognizable sampling of animal noises and suits resembling a high school marching band uniform. The sound is a mix of genres and slightly alien.

The opening warmed up the audience with an upbeat, punk set. Lead vocalist, Ben Roy, said itchy-O has “the right amount of danger.” Shortly after Roy handed off the stage to what he called “a satanic mariachi band,” members began entering the Gothic from every angle.

Every crevice of the venue became their stage. Two mysterious figures crowd surfed and climbed over the balcony. Others wandered into the lobby. They hugged, high-fived and danced with the concertgoers.

Attendee Josie Cool said “It’s a crazy experience of not knowing where the stage and audience is.”

There was little space left after the audience filled the room. After one encore, itchy-O ended the immersive show.

Fans who want more can catch them on tour. Their next stop in Denver will be on Halloween at the Summit Music Hall.

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